Retiring soldier ready for next assignment

By Ed Brock

On this Fourth of July retiring Army Sgt. Terry Herring will be wishing he were in Iraq.

Like a professional football player who goes to the Super Bowl but has to spend the game on the bench, 38-year-old Herring is eager to use his skills.

"I've had so much fun in the Army, I don't feel like it's work," Herring said. "I wish I was there (in Iraq) so bad."

Herring lives in Jonesboro and is stationed at Army Garrison Fort McPherson. On July 25, after a ceremony at the fort, his retirement will become official.

Originally from North Carolina, Herring joined the Army in 1984 at 17 years old, fresh out of high school and 17 years old. He was just as eager to serve then.

"I didn't even finish my summer vacation," Herring said. "I'm a 30 year man and I wanted to do my 30 years."

Specializing in intelligence analysis, Herring has been stationed all around the world, in Germany and Korea, and in several states. He's been deployed to Canada and Guam, but he's never seen major combat.

He almost went to Desert Storm in 1991.

"Two days before I was going to deploy they told me I wasn't going," Herring said.

He also spent a stint on the Mexican border as part of the military assistance in the war on drugs, an assignment he says was very exciting. But it wasn't combat.

The reason Herring hasn't already gone to war is the serious injury he suffered to his spine as a result of a training exercise. He was teaching other soldiers how to rappel down a rope (Herring also is a drill sergeant) but somebody failed to hold the bottom of the rope and Herring fell 30 feet.

Since the accident he's had three surgeries and has several metal pins in his back. That's why the Army couldn't send him to the ongoing war in Iraq. But now he has a plan to go to war as a civilian. He plans to go with one of the companies that operate the military's unmanned spy planes, something he used to do during his mission on the border.

"Anything to get on the ground. I want to be in Baghdad," Herring said.

A father of three, Herring said his wife Crystal Herring, who works for the U.S. Customs Agency, is accepting of his desire to go to do battle.

"She knows I'm fixed on it," Herring said. "If you cut me my blood would be camo-green."

His daughter, 14-year-old Chellista Herring, is less enthusiastic.

"I don't like it," she said. "My mom (Herring's ex-wife) is already there. It makes me sad, stuff on the news about people being blown up."

But Terry Herring isn't going just for the action. He wants to bring some leadership to all the young soldiers he sees going to war and dying for their country.

"I want to keep them thinking, save soldier's lives," Herring said.

On Monday Crystal Herring will be at work and Terry Herring will take Chellista and his two sons to Fort Gordon in Augusta for a family cookout.

It will be the second Independence Day since the war began, and Terry Herring said he thinks people are more appreciative of the job soldiers do.

"Just to have somebody shake my hand and say thank you, it's worth it to me," Herring said.

And Chellista Herring agrees that things have changed and July 4 has earned more importance in the African American community.

"Now my parents are a part of it," Chellista Herring said.

Herring is one of more than 29,400 military retirees living in the Atlanta area, including Clayton and Henry counties.